Satanists Want to Put Satan Statue on Oklahoma Capitol Grounds. (Lotsa Luck)

I are not too swift, as we say in the Oklahoma hills where I was born. (Hat tip to Woody Guthrie.)

I had never heard of Baphomet. But my colleague Max Lindenman (who is not afflicted with dumb Okie-ism) immediately noticed that the proposed statue of satan which a group of satanists want to place on the grounds of the Oklahoma State Capitol looks a lot more like Baphomet than the angel of darkness.

Me, I was still rubbing the sleep out of my eyes and trying to digest the fact that satanists really want to put a statue of satan at the Oklahoma capitol. Their reason? According to an Associated Press story that reader Marcelle Bartolo-Abella sent me, they feel it belongs next to the plaque with the Ten Commandments on it.

I actually know the reporter, Sean Murphy, who wrote the AP story, and since we’re an insular lot down Okie way, that makes me think the story is not just a reprint from The Onion. It’s amazing how often these stories about atheists/satanists and their bizarre behavior come across as a comedy routine at first.

According to Mr Murphy’s story, we’ve also got a sign out there somewhere on the prairie telling unbelievers that they are “not alone.”

I place this satan-statue-on-the-Oklahoma-capitol-grounds idea in the same intellectual box where I keep my momentos from the Freedom from Religion crowd’s Keep Saturn in Saturnalia Christmas sign (which, according to some reports was “almost” burned down, an almost crime that led to the usual denunciations of “Christian bigots” in atheist circles.) It’s just great adolescent fun to go in your face with Christians, especially when you can do it in a way that demonstrates how you are guided by “rational thought” and such.

Despite it’s onion-esq quality, I wouldn’t be surprised if the statue question ends up in court.

I have already had quite a few suggestions concerning what to do about this statue, should it be erected on the capitol grounds. My favorite comes from a Catholic Patheosi colleague and involves me, the Rosary and outraged satanists.

I keep thinking about what my constituents would do. They don’t suffer fools, my constituents. A few years ago, pro abortion people tried to get a hate-on going against me by distributing scurrilous fliers to the good people of District 89, accusing me of various things. The pro abortion people never admitted this, but I know for a fact that they got jumped out pretty good. They were accosted and called names. One lady followed them down the street, yelling at them to get out of there and go back where they came from. (And she’s pro choice!)

Okies don’t like being meddled with. It’s not so much a matter of philosophy, as it is that we think we’re capable of making up our own minds without a bunch of outsiders coming in and trying to do it for us.

I’m not so sure that a statue of satan on the capitol grounds would have a long life, even if it went up. I don’t think the legislature would let it stand. I also think the public outrage would be protracted and heartfelt. Okies are peaceable people who don’t mind you believing whatever you want. That’s your business. But getting in people’s faces in the Oklahoma hills where I was born is a high insult. It’s not too swift.

Whaddaya think? Is it Satan …

Proposed statue for Oklahoma capitol grounds. Source: Associated Press

… or Baphomet?

Source: Wikipedia, via Max Lindenman

  • A J MacDonald Jr

    The androgynous Baphomet is the ideal sign of our times. Is it not?

    • kenofken

      I don’t know. I still liked David Bowie in that role better! :)

  • SisterCynthia

    Apparently the Satanists have chosen to use this monstrosity to represent their god. Yucky. As for whether or not they have a prescedent they can use to argue that they deserve equal “representation,” I think not. On the grounds of mere historical relavence to the formation of the various states and our country as a whole, the Ten Commandments has prescedence in the realm of law. There isn’t actually any prescedence for something explicitly satanic. Now, if these satanists want to promote Free Masonry, a case of historical relevence might be made, as many founders were part of that society and its symbols are part of many early designs associated with the govt. But I don’t think Free Masons would be happy with satanists installing a pilar of their symbols and claiming it, so I think they’ll be out of luck. ;)

    • kenofken

      Let’s avoid the charade that the Ten Commandment installations in public places are about a neutral interest in curating history. Christians place them and defend them because they believe their religion has or should have preeminence in law and public policy. If you want respect for that construction of religious freedom, at least own it. In any case, the First Amendment rights of expression and non-establishment of religion are not contingent on a group’s ability to prove some arbitrary historical provenance or ties to our country’s past. A person following a religion invented the day before yesterday, or an atheist, has the same rights as someone whose church once held the signers of the Declaration of Independence.

      • hamiltonr

        Don’t be hectoring Ken. Sister Cynthia didn’t say anything that deserves jumping on her this way. Stay on the ideas you’re trying to communicate.

      • hamiltonr

        Ken, I’m curious why you’re so worked up over this? Do pagans worship satan? This is an honest question. I really don’t know.

        • kenofken

          I’m worked up about it because I believe deeply in separation of church and state and a republic in which the government plays absolutely no role in endorsement of any religion. I held this belief in my Catholic youth, my agnostic early adulthood and as a pagan.

          As a pagan, I don’t worship or even acknowledge Satan. Most pagans don’t consider Satanists to be pagans and a great many Satanists are in agreement with that. Satan is a figure from Christian cosmology, and since we don’t subscribe to that world view, he plays no role for us. We have of course been labeled as Satanists over the years either out of ignorance or spite, but we don’t identify with them. Satanists in our view are Christians in rebellion, not pagans. Many are actually just humanists who use “Satan” as a symbol of human autonomy, not an actual deity to worship.

          For me, the fact that they are Satanists are neither here nor there. The First Amendment, if it is to mean anything at all, must be honored especially in cases where the belief being expressed is unpopular. I don’t think we should have any displays of sectarian religion on public ground, but if we do, it must be open to all.

          • Fabio Paolo Barbieri

            That is both dogmatic and silly. All religions are not equal, for a start, and I find it difficult to believe even you would insist on equal status for Aztec or Carthaginian religion, with their repulsive and flaunted human sacrifice. What about Hinduism and caste? Caste is inseparable from Hinduism. And caste involves marriage taboos that make the old ban on interracial marriage look quite benignant and small-scale by comparison. And, of course, the zinger: what about Sharia? What about a religious law that not only allows but demands that people it disapproves of should be killed in the street? Do you or do you not see a certain basic incompatibility between a lot of religious doctrines from different religions and your ideal of a peaceful commonwealth? If you don’t, it’s because you refuse to see it, in order to maintain to yourself your pretence of rationality. But if you were rational, which you are not and never shall be, you would realize that what you expect from a peaceful commonwealth, you expect because you have lived all your life in a Christian tradition, and that you would probably go insane, or die, in a well-managed Muslim or Hindu commonwealth.

            • kenofken

              It’s fine for you and I and any private citizen to debate the merits of one religion versus another. Government has no business at all weighing in on that. Government’s only legitimate interests in the area of religion are public safety and equal protections of the law. Human sacrifice is homicide and it’s illegal regardless of who’s doing it. There are in fact modern Aztec reconstructionists who of course don’t practice or attempt to practice human sacrifice, and so long as they behave themselves, their beliefs are none of the state’s business.

              Hinduism is not inseparable from caste. Discriminating on caste is unconstitutional in India, and various affirmative action programs and laws have greatly elevated the standing of those who were traditionally considered Dalit, or “untouchable.” In any case, the forces of modernity in India – urbanization, a technology based economy, the education of women, social and physical mobility – are rapidly overturning the notions of caste and marriage taboos of which you speak. They are entirely meaningless to most Hindus who have been living in the United States or other Western countries for any period of time. Again, if Hindus aren’t breaking the law, ie refusing to hire a Dalit, it’s not for our government to judge their religion.

              Likewise with Muslims. Issuing (and certainly carrying out) execution orders, ie fatwas, is illegal in any context, and not at all a hallmark of American Muslims.

              Remember that a government which can outlaw or suppress Muslims or Hindus or Aztecs today “for the good of the republic” can, and WILL do the same to your religion sooner or later.

              • Fabio Paolo Barbieri

                You are incapable of seeing facts. Try to get a Hindu to marry someone out of his or her caste, see what happens. Because they don’t say it to your face doesn’t mean that they don’t think of it – all the time – all the time. It is a fundamental category. And your pious hope that “modernity” will somehow soften Sharia does not even need an answer.

                • kenofken

                  Even if we accept your contention that Hindus will never marry outside of their caste, because of Hinduism, why is that a proper cause for our government to officially condemn or legally disadvantage Hindus?

                  When has any Western society mandated egalitarian marriage? We’re not exactly caste-free in America, apart from Indians or other South Asians. The stigma may not be as well defined, but even among plain old, white bread here-since-the-Mayflower Americans, you don’t find a lot of people marrying far outside of their social and economic class. Not a lot of 1 percenters marrying truck drivers or Wal-Mart stockers. Not to say it never happens, but it isn’t common, and often causes a big stink among the wealthier side of the wedding aisle, and it’s not at all unheard of for people to be disowned or disinherited by their families from crossing that line.

                  Hinduism is also not the only religion which has reservations about marrying outside of one’s “tribe”, be it caste or religion. The more conservative branches of Judaism discourage marrying outside of the faith. Catholic Canon Law expresses reservations about doing so, even to other Christians. Marrying across ethnic lines and certainly color lines was a big deal until very recently, and still is in some quarters. Tribalism is an unfortunate fact of human existence that is slowly getting better, but it’s hardly a proper reason for our government to referee religion for us.

                  I don’t know what to tell you about Muslims. I want to say that most Muslims in this country have no desire to impose Sharia. To the extent they want it at all, it is in the form of a voluntary system for matters inside the faith, much like Jewish Beth Dins or Canon Law courts. I don’t suspect I’ll get far with you on that point. If you consider Islam to be inherently dangerous, what do you propose we do with Muslims living in the United States? Should we have our government condemn their religion, bar the construction of mosques, deny them immigration? Round them up? Countries in Europe have shown us that the best way to radicalize young Muslim men is to isolate them socially and economically and religiously. I don’t care to repeat that experiment here.

                  • Fabio Paolo Barbieri

                    An enormous waste of words in the desperate effort to try and pretend that “discourage” has the same content as “forbid”. Sorry, it does not. The only things that are relevant to a comparison with Hindu caste laws are the old prohibitions on interracial marriage – which were an American innovation unknown to European countries, even Britain – and the Jewish prohibition on intermarriage. That is exactly comparable, because the person who does that loses caste and is excluded from the community in the same sense as a Hindu who congregates with a member of another caste does; but they are more easily understandable in that the Jews have historically been a small minority in constant danger of absorption into alien majorities, and who regarded themselves as under a quite exceptional level of religious demands (IIRC, the Noachic commandments that are binding on all men are seven, whereas the Mosaic commandments that are binding on Jews are 632), which would not be fulfilled if they vanished – in other words, the world needed (in some profound mystical sense) at least a few true Jews to continue to practice their own special religious excellence. This, incidentally, is also the doctrine of modern Brahmanism – the Brahmans being the highest order of castes in Hinduism and the one who suffer from most taboos.

                    The imprecision of your mind is such that you do not seem to see any difference between the “civil death” that such punishments as Jewish excommunication and Hindu caste degradation imply, and must imply, and cannot help but imply; and the mere disapproval that marrying outside of one’s sphere may cause – a disapproval which as a rule dies down in a few years. Which, frankly, I find insulting to any people who really had to suffer under real and terrible sanctions. But then you had an impossible cause to defend.

          • FW Ken

            Are you equally worked up about the other part of the first amendment: free exercise. You know, the one whereby Christians (among others) are being forced to pay for abortion-inducing drugs?

            • kenofken

              Honestly, I’m of mixed mind on the contraception mandate, and I’m at the point where I’m content to let the courts sort it out. There’s a couple of extremes in the conception of “free exercise.” At one end, a view which says only the activities of private worship are sacrosanct. At the other is a view which says that no one should ever have to follow any law that clashes with their doctrine or conscience. I think the balance has to be struck somewhere in between. I have already gone on record saying that I don’t believe religious belief should exempt people from civil rights laws – ie a baker should not be allowed to refuse a gay couple service against public accommodation laws. Like any other right, religious expression is not absolute, and must be balanced against other rights, which will sometimes properly have the “right of way.” The contraception mandate is more complex, I think. I want to see religious expression concerns, along with all others, given serious consideration by courts, and I trust they will.

              • FW Ken

                Most legal actions against conscience have restrained behavior, whatever the religious person believed was permissible. The HHS mandate, as well as the public accommodation laws, compel behavior. That’s a major difference.

        • SisterCynthia

          Ken could perhaps enlighten both of us. My limited understanding, from having lived in an area with plenty of Wiccans, and having a few such friends, is that Wiccan worship often includes adoration of a horned god, who they would NOT say IS Satan, as they consider Satan to be at best a Christian mockery of their god. However, I do know that not all self-identified Pagans are Wiccans. Among those who aren’t, it seemed they would individually choose which deities to believe in/honor among the various old gods (popular in the NW: Egyptian, Celtic and Norse gods). To my knowledge (admitedly limited!), none of those deities include one identified as or resembling Satan. The Wiccans I knew thought Satanists were pathetic, choosing to identify with the loser in the Christian story in stead of honoring the powerful Horned God in theirs.

          • kenofken

            We do have a Horned God figure in Wicca, considered to be the embodiment of the male divine. You are correct in saying that not all Pagans are Wiccan, and in any case, people’s understanding of the nature of gods/goddesses varies widely. Some see individual gods and goddesses as manifestations of the same ultimate divinity. Many others are “hard polytheists” who see them as completely separate beings in their own right. Are there gods that “resemble Satan”? Well, that depends on your conception of what Satan looks like. In the classic depictions, Satan is visualized as a winged demon, fallen angel, twisted looking human etc. In more recent centuries, his image has been conflated with that of one or more pagan gods, specifically Pan (the Greek god, goat-looking fellow) or Cernunnos, a Celtic deity with antlers.

            For my part, I wouldn’t go so far as to say I consider Satanists “pathetic.” I don’t give them a great deal of thought one way or another. The handful I’ve met were outwardly pleasant enough, and from what I could tell approached Satanism more as a philosophy than a religion. Most were Ayn Rand fans who believed that supreme self-interest is the only honest way people can relate to each other, a sort of civil but frank sociopathy, if you will. I can tell you that this Oklahoma business is the first I’ve seen of Baphomet in a specifically Satanic context. Mostly I’ve seen the image used among the ceremonial magic/esoteric traditions like OTO, Golden Dawn etc., which all trace their lineage back to Eliphas Levi, the guy who seemed to first invent the Baphomet image as we know it today.

            My main point in all of this is that the relative or absolute merits of Satanism are irrelevant to the underlying separation of church and state issue at play.

            • SisterCynthia

              Thanks for sharing, Ken. :) It’s pretty safe to say most Christians don’t know much about the Pagan world, since we (like most people in general) tend to flock with our own kind. I know more than most, due to friendships from my college days. That’s interesting what you say about Satanists you’ve met. Do you think this sort of loose “philosophy” in place of active worship is akin to those who identify as Christian but mostly as a general approach to ethics and who rarely-to-never participate in any forms of worship…if that makes any sense…? Being a religious person, it is hard for me to imagine any serious belief in a deity without that prompting SOME kind of worship or life-direction flowing from that belief… but I guess not everyone feels the need for those things.

              • kenofken

                I should say that my direct knowledge of Satanism is pretty limited. I’ve met a small handful of people who claimed the lablel, and didn’t really talk to them at any great depth about their beliefs and practices. The form of Satanism which has had the most exposure in popular culture, that launched by Anton LaVey in the 60s, treats Satan more as a symbol of true human nature rather than someone to be worshipped. There seems to be a bewildering array of other groups, some of which do worship, though not all of them conceive of “Satan” in the Biblical sense of the word. If Satanists do have any unique aversion to worship, it probably derives from the original mythology of Satan, who exhorted humanity not to bow to God, but to strive to become god-like in their own right.

                I have found that in general, every religious movement seems to have people who run the gamut of reasons for participating and levels of dedication. You find people who just sort of wear it as a lifestyle accessory or use it as a social outlet, people who live it 24/7 and order their whole lives around it, and everything in between.

                I know we have that whole spectrum in the pagan community, where we have some folks who worship particular deities very devoutly and others who are non-theistic pagans who have no belief in the supernatural but see god and goddess as archetypes and find paganism a useful basis of ethics, especially around things like environmentalism etc. We have some who start off in the deep end of devotion and get burned out and leave or back off, and we have others who sort of schlepped along casually until they had a conversion experience of some kind.

                Much of this variety is due to different experiences. In every religion, some people, try as they might, will never really perceive the presence of a personal divine. That won’t necessarily stop them from living their deep beliefs. Mother Teresa is a prime example. Others, ie prophets, who aren’t especially devout or “holy” find themselves in constant and personal communication with the divine. I’ve seen parallels in paganism as well.

              • Alyxander M Folmer

                In many religious practices, the ideals of “Worship” and “Faith” take a back seat to ideals like “Community” and “Ethics”.
                An example my father once shared with me kind of explains what I mean.
                Bob and Steve are buddies. Bob goes to church every Sunday, so he can talk to God. Steve goes to church every Sunday so he can talk to Bob.

                I (and many within my community) are more like Steve. The theology is less important than the community. :)

        • Brockness Mobster

          I can’t speak for Ken but as an atheist I get worked up when the people aren’t given equal treatment. The government can’t endorse the Christian monument and deny the satanists the same opportunity.

          • FW Ken

            You seem oblivious to the fact that the ten commandments are Jewish in origin.

            • kenofken

              I’m well aware of their Jewish origins, and, in a rudimentary sense, how the Ten Commandments frame out the 613 commandments, the “mitzvot”. That has little bearing on the controversies at hand because this is not a fight between rabbis and the ACLU, and no one is arguing for the creation of a Halachic state in America.

              The Commandments themselves are only important in this legal-cultural fight insofar as they have become a sort of culture war totem, an identity flag for people who believe Christianity should hold a particular prominence in public spaces. Groups like Alliance Defense Fund aren’t rallying around the Commandments because they want a particular emphasis on Aseret ha-Dibrot over “lesser” mitzvot. They do so because the Ten are widely recognized shorthand for traditional American religious identity and because they seem less overtly sectarian than most New Testament passages and thus (perhaps) more defensible in court.

              • hamiltonr

                Ken, do you maintain that the Ten Commandments have no historic significance in Western society, that they are no more relevant to Western lawmaking than a Betty Crocker recipe?

                • kenofken

                  I wouldn’t say the Ten Commandments have NO historical significance in Western lawmaking. I would say they are a relatively minor component of a much larger mix of historical documents and philosophies which have much more direct and relevant linkage to our Constitution. They were created for the Jewish people, who have a vastly different understanding of how they frame laws and commandments. They were co-opted by Christianity, which is all well and good.

                  For the Enlightenment thinkers who truly gave shape to our revolution, the Ten Commandments arguably form a basis, or at least coincide with, the concept of the minimum restrictions needed to take us out of a Hobbesian state of nature and into a social compact and governance. That said, the “biggies” of the Ten Commandments – don’t steal, don’t kill etc., have been recognized as staples of civic order since the first nomads formed the first walled villages.

                  The Commandments are a minor ingredient in the stew for another reason: the Constitution is not, primarily, a code of criminal justice or “thou shalt nots” for individuals. It is primarily concerned with limiting and dividing government authority, creating a rule of law, not man, and making the whole mechanism of government accountable to citizens. That being the case, the framers drew most heavily not on the law of Moses, but from the templates of limited government which had evolved mostly in England since the Magna Carta. They also looked to models of democratic and participatory government back to the ancient world and even to the Native Americans they would soon displace.

                  The framers weren’t losing sleep over how to make the populous honor the Sabat or avoid coveting or ending idolotry. With memories of massive sectarian bloodletting in Europe over religion, they wisely decided to keep government out of the religion business altogether.

                  So, no, I don’t think the Ten Commandments have to be scrubbed from any discussion or artistic treatment of our nation’s history, but I do think the move to install them alone at courthouses and other public spaces is grossly out of proportion to their actual historical significance in our lawmaking. I also find that in word and deed, the main interest of these activists is transparently not in commemorating the history of jurisprudence.

                  • FW Ken

                    Actually, the Bill of Rights (10 amendments, coincidentally) are pretty much a laundry list of donts, but they restrain the federal government. Later jurisprudence applied the Bill to local governments.

              • FW Ken

                Ken, you are wrong about the place of the ten commandments in western culture. Even atheists, squeaking about “good without god”, when pushed about what constitutes “good”, fall back on the moral principles in the commandments.

                Heck, even the injunction about respecting god applies to all. You and I serve different gods, but I trust you respect your god(s), add I do mine. Even atheists seem to respect the values and aspirations they give primary place in their lives. And sensible people build rest into their lives, sometimes even using the word “Sabbath”.

                Without the commandments, this society would not exist.

                • kenofken

                  There are some fairly universal or widespread principles within the Ten, but I think it’s a real far stretch to characterize them in the aggregate as just sort of a generic admonition to “be a good person.” Half of them command the worship of a particular God in a particular way.

                  I think you would be very hard pressed to find any rabbi, or mainstream Christian biblical scholar who would agree with the idea that the laws handed down by the God of Israel to Moses were ever intended to mean “honor whatever god you follow.” In fact, a couple of them have very specific warnings against doing that very thing. For Jews, certainly, the Sabbath has much more specific and profound implications than “take a day off now and then.” Of course there are differences between the ways in which Jews are bound to the laws versus Christians whose covenant is defined by the events of the New Testament.

                  In either case, the text and historical meaning of the bulk of the 10 Commandments is crystal clear: “Worship Yahweh, and do so in these particular ways, or else.” It’s very difficult for a reasonable person to see that on a courthouse lawn or foyer and not construe it as a government endorsement of one, or perhaps two, specific religions. There is no way to construe that as constitutional, and that’s why such displays are almost always barred by judges who are almost universally Jewish or Christian themselves, and often devout.

                  • FW Ken

                    First, the Commandments are split 4 concerning humanity relating to God and 6 concerning relationships among persons. Second, I wasn’t talking about re-imagining the Commandments as a sort of call to be nice. The point is that this culture is based on the moral precepts therein, without respect to religion (as such).

                    By the way, I am not arguing for putting up public displays of the Ten Commandments, for some of the reasons you articulate. But it’s ridiculous and dangerous to pretend they are not the foundation of a civil society.

                    You say that Aztec religion doesn’t practice human sacrifice because murder is illegal. But why is it illegal? Granted that the prohibition on murder comes from multiple directions, but the Commandments are the where we get them.

            • Brockness Mobster

              You’re right, I suppose it doesn’t just pertain to Christians, however that really doesn’t matter. As long as Judeo-Christian beliefs are being favored there is still a problem.

              • hamiltonr

                So government should never take a position or or allow public discussion or demonstration of beliefs of any sort?

              • FW Ken

                So you reject the notions that we should honor or parents, live at peace with or neighbors, not steal, not murder… you know stuff like that.

          • kenofken

            There’s one other bit of historical perspective to keep in mind here. Today’s Christians invariably think of separation of church and state activists as atheists and satanists and overall angry loons who just want to wet on the charcoal of good God-fearing folk. In fact, the concept was pioneered largely by Baptists, who bore the sting of discrimination for being the “wrong” sort of Christian in England and the colonies. The “first ACLU” were devout Christians. A good number still are, because they realize that mixing of church and state ultimately debases religion.

        • pagansister

          IMO and I can only say my opinion, Pagans in general do not worship Satan. Personally, I do not “worship” any beings, divine or otherwise.

      • FW Ken

        Ken, I agree with you about public religion in general. If someone wants to put up a public plaque inscribed with John 3.16, then games on. But the ten commandments are a source document for the culture and history of this country. That’s a fact. That they drive from the Jewish religion is extraneous; they are embedded in the wassup and wood of our culture.

        • kenofken

          This is what I took issue with earlier, and it’s not a slam against you or Sister Cynthia, but this idea that these 10 Commandment battles are about history, not religion, is…disingenuous to say the least. It’s a lawyer’s ruse.

          Since courts have made it crystal clear that selective display of religious symbols on public property is unconstitutional, attorneys have tried a not-too-clever end run around the establishment clause. They have tried to create and nurture the fiction that the cross and Commandments are not really religious in nature but generic cultural secular symbols whose religious history is just incidental! It worked, briefly, for one level of appeal in the Mount Soledad Cross case, but…..come on folks. It insults everyone’s intelligence, and where I come from, it comes awfully close to dishonoring one’s gods and not showing the courage of one’s true convictions.

          What does that say to one’s God when you deny your faith in Him so that you can save Him by sort of sneaking Him onto a privileged spot on Caesar’s grounds so that he will have “real” strength before the people? Most little kids would feel patronized by such behavior. I shudder to think how disrespected any of my gods and goddesses would perceive it!

          If these 10 Commandments installations were really about honoring historical influences of our democracy, we would see substantial depictions in the same space of the Magna Carta, the English Bill of Rights, the Great Law of Peace of the Iroquois Nation, the writings of John Locke, etc. We never, or almost never see these things. Just the 10 Commandments, which have been a rallying cause of religious right organizations dedicated to the purpose of defining America as an explicitly Christian nation.

          Whatever side you take on this issue, let’s agree to be honest about this one point: This is not a fight about some abstract, neutral right to curate history through granite. It’s about religion.

          • hamiltonr

            So … you’re worried about Christians not honoring their God properly? :-)

            The point I was making is that you were coming across as angry and accusing on a topic that in no way merits that much gas.

            As for Christians this and Christians that, I’m beginning to wear a little thin with it Ken. Christian bashing is not only bad on its face, it becomes tiresome after a while. Stop and think for a moment how it would come across if you did that with any other group (except, perhaps, women.)

            If you said Jews think this and do this because, or homosexuals or even pagans, it would immediately be labeled offensive.

            So why is labeling ok when someone does it to Christians? I realize that this kind of thing has become ubiquitous in our society, to the point that it’s cool and trendy to label and insult Christians. It has reached the point that people do it without even knowing what they are doing because they hear it so much and so often.

            It seems that certain people either can not or will not talk about this kind of issue without talking about “Christians” as a sub-species of humanity.

            You are not really bad about that, and I know it, but I’m worn out with it lately. If I didn’t enjoy some of the more thoughtful commenters here — such as you — I would simply go to what some of my colleagues do and delete anything that doesn’t build the Kingdom.

            This is, after all, a Christian blog.

            • kenofken

              Maybe I should clarify that my position is pro-secularist, not anti-Christian. I concede I am a bit “spirited” if not strident in the way I articulate my views on this matter.

              My problem is not with Christianity or “Christians” in the aggregate. It is with a strain of politicized culture war Christianity which seeks to assert exclusive ownership of the public square and civic life in America. My beef is with people who have an attitude of “religious expression for me, but not for thee” and who think it’s acceptable to lord their demographic power or public office over those who don’t share their religious views or who don’t conform to what they consider a “real” religion.

              My understanding and personal experience of history inform me that letting government play favorites with religion, even in ways that seem small, is incredibly toxic to the civic atmosphere of modern democracies. It also violates some specific conceptions of our own form of government, and I believe it ultimately cheapens and undermines the authenticity of the religion in question. I think even Pope Francis concurs on this last point. One of the defining messages of his papacy so far has been to get the faith back to its roots and away from culture war and partisan agendas.

              As a member of a minority religion, I can also tell you that the sorts of privilege and triumphalism that might seem trivial to you cause real-world harm at our end of things. Until quite recently, we could not properly honor our war dead in veterans cemeteries or worship on bases or claim the usual tax exemptions for our church buildings, all because some public officials felt the First Amendment was a privilege for the “right” religions and not for all. This stuff is not abstract for us. It is real and it is still happening as we speak.

              Some of the legal and political activists who provoke fights over monuments are frank dominionists. They openly advocate the idea that those outside the Judeo-Christian traditions have no inherent First Amendment claims are should be tolerated only at the whim of the majority. My fight is with abuse of power and intolerance and with a phenomenon which has less to do with theology than plain old bullying.

              My fight is with a sort of religious nationalism or dominionism. In this country, that pits me against (only some) Christians, because that happens to be the only group with the option to exercise that sort of power. Elsewhere in the world, secularists struggle against opponents who are Muslim, or Hindu or, in Israel, ultra-Orthodox. I also wouldn’t countenance this sort of domination of the public square by pagans and would fight for separation of state and temple, if I still have any strength left at age 150 when that becomes even a remote possibility!

              My position boils down to this: If you try to claim the courthouse lawn for just your religion, I’ll fight you all the way. Not because you’re Christian, but because I believe it’s un-American and dangerous. If you want to build a 20-foot lighted cross on your own property, I’m all for that. Hell, if you ask nicely and throw in some beer and pizza, I’d probably give up a Saturday to help you put it up.

              • hamiltonr

                I’m not interested in allowing a set of arguments based on people. Try talking about the position and the issues themselves. It is possible to do this Ken.

          • hamiltonr

            I wasn’t personally offended Ken. I am just pretty much through with tolerating Christian bashing as an argument for a position.

        • pagansister

          Because of the original movie ads? Who thought to display them in public places before the the movie producer (whose name I can’t remember right now!) decided to do so for advertizing purposes?

          • FW Ken

            PS, is that a reply to something I wrote?

            • pagansister

              Sorry, FW Ken, guess that was a bit cryptic—-I was attempting to respond (not well obviously) to your statement that the ten commandments are a source document for the culture and history of this country by asking if it was because of the original movie ads.

              • FW Ken

                No, I think they probably made the movie because the Commandments are culturally relevant. Well, that and to make money.

                • kenofken

                  There was a spate of Bible-based movies in the early and mid 1950s. From what I can gather, there are several reasons for this.

                  They were, of course, epic stories, and ones which had enough general familiarity (and relevance) that a writer wouldn’t need to spend much of the script or film selling the concept to an audience. Movies like DeMille’s were also excellent vehicles for leading stars and for sweeping action sequences and the new color technologies of the day.

                  Another interesting aspect was that studios were allowed a great deal more latitude to depict sex and violence in a religious context than, in, say, a detective thriller. Under the Hays production codes, films went from stuff almost as racy as we’d see today to a high degree of censorship and almost Amish-like sensibilities in what could be shown. Movies like the Ten Commandments were good ways to tell a big story without censorship or major controversy, and make a ton money in the process.

                  • FW Ken

                    I’m thinking Delilah here…

                • pagansister

                  I would suggest mostly to make money. :-)

                  • FW Ken

                    Ah! But they could only make money on something meaningful to the culture. :-)

                    • pagansister

                      Perhaps. :-)

              • kenofken

                To tell you the truth, I don’t know how much the movie ads contributed. It would certainly make sense that they might have. The film came out in 1956, when the country was in the midst of a sort of revival of public religiosity in response to the Cold War. It was the same year “In God We Trust” became the official motto and added to money. It was also within a year or two of when “under God”, was added to the Pledge of Allegiance. I think it would make a nice article topic if you’re a historian or political scientist of some sort.

                • pagansister

                  Certainly lots of calling on God or assuming that the entire country was placing our future in God during that time with the public slogans. Old enough to remember both the “In God We Trust” slogan and the “under God” addition to the Pledge.

      • Okie from Muskogee Catholic

        kenofken, The Ten Commandments are revered by not just one religion (Christian): they are revered by many GROUPS (Christians, JEWS, MUSLIMS, Cultural Humanists, Philosophers, etc.). The Ten Commandments are also in fact a historic document & whose basic principles of morality can also be found in universal Natural Laws outside of the shared Christian-Jewish-Muslim Context. The Satanist statue is just plain stupid, offensive, hideous & pure evil. I’m an Okie from Muskogee & think these “Satan Temple from New York” worshippers (who are funding this hideous thing) should build it in their backyard (the NY capitol) NOT my own capitol (Okla.). The OK Capitol is my home as an Okie, respect it.
        hamiltonr : Rep. Rebecca Hamilton, I had never heard of you until now (I came here browsing over from Deacon’s Bench), but I’m very impressed by your Catholic witness in the public life. As a fellow Okie Catholic, thank you so much & I will enjoy continuing to read this blog, glad I found it.

      • Okie from Muskogee Catholic

        Part of Ten Commandments can even be found in the ancient Code of Hammurabi! They do apply to the universal Natural Law of morality, & your objections only stem from your anti-Christian bigotry. Not Anti-Jewish bigotry (which is were the Commandments originated) nor Anti-Muslim bigotry (which is a group way larger than Jews that revere the Ten Commandments), But Christian Anti-Bigotry. Shame on you for rejecting your Heritage! Your Christian Heritage is more valuable than a treasure’s worth of gold yet you reject it based on misguided “modernist” notions. More sad, actually, than shameful. I feel sorry for you.

    • pagansister

      Weren’t the 10 Commandment plaques originally used to advertize the movie done many, many years ago and really had nothing to do with Christians wanting to “promote their faith”?

  • kenofken

    The Satanists, goofy as they are, are in the right on this matter. Government in this country cannot selectively grant access to public expression of one religion over another. It cannot play favorites. That space is either open to all expression or none where religion is concerned. If the legislature insists on trying to maintain Christianity’s quasi-official status by retaining the Commandments and barring all other displays, they will end up spending hundreds of thousands of dollars of the taxpayer’s money, and they will lose. No doubt we will then see it spun as persecution of Christians.

    I’m disappointed to see a public official predicting and perhaps endorsing extralegal “solutions” like vandalism if a court doesn’t go their way. Whether you hate the ACLU or Satanists or atheists or out-of-town activists is beside the point. Oklahoma is still part of the union, and the Constitution (and attending case law), is still the law of the land. I’ve never been to the state, or known anyone from Oklahoma well, but if they’re anything like folks from other Western states I’ve known, they’re a pretty upright lot. I would fully expect them to stand their ground if a rude atheist got in their face at a protest. On the other hand, skulking around to burn or break monuments in the dead of night is as cowardly an act as it is thuggish.

    This case is also a moment where Christians need to take stock of what they’re really about. If it’s ok to use mob violence to preserve your cultural hegemomy in an area where you hold sway, what moral basis do you have to protest when Christians in, say, the Middle East, get the same treatment from their majority overlords? Given that Christianity in this country stands to become a minority, do you really want to set “street justice” as the new standard for resolving civic disputes around religious identity?

    Baphomet? Interesting back story there. Baphomet was originally the name of an idol the Knights Templar were supposedly worshipping when King Philip IV had them all rounded up and executed (to get out of some large debts he had to the order). What that idol looked like varied, because everyone gave different answers under torture (one of the real shortcomings of that method of interrogation). The goat figure the Satanist now seem to favor was in fact created in the mid 19th Century by occultist Eliphas Levi. It was an amalgam depicting the balance of Heaven and Earth, male/female etc. It was steeped in symbolism of Kabbalah and alchemy, not a celebration of Satan.

    • hamiltonr

      Thanks Ken for the useful criticism. I wrote this quickly in a tongue in cheek mode and didn’t realize how someone else might take it. I went back and clarified a bit because of what your wrote here. I am not advocating vandalism, even in jest.

  • FW Ken

    In addition, Satanists don’t necessarily worship, our even believe in, a literal Satan. One of their priests told me that once; their real interest in power and the manipulation of reality through words. It’s fairly clear this statute is a jab at Christians rather than anything they actually believe. I say let them out it up, then have the archbishop of OKC go out and exorcise it.


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